Disfellowshipping – who’s at fault?
By Len Miller
The announcement, “John (or Mary) Doe is no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” is repeated some 70,000 times each year in Kingdom Halls throughout the world. The Watchtower Society wants its followers to believe that these individuals became so unrepentantly contaminated with evil that it became necessary to remove them from association with faithful members.
I suggest that nothing can be further from the truth. I think these former members lost their trance-like acceptance of Watchtower teachings long before those formal announcements.
When I was a faithful adherent, I felt that if the Watchtower had asked me to stand on my head and stack greased BB’s, I would have given that task a valiant effort. That’s the way it is with hypnotized folks. It doesn’t matter what the suggestion might be, they’ll try to do it. From Wiki, James Randi, a famed professional magician and skeptic, offers the following definition of hypnosis:
“. . . [It’s] a mutual agreement of the operator and the subject that the subject will cooperate in following suggestions.”
Enter credibility. Nothing destroys confidence between parties more than when one of them sees chinks in the armor of the other. Husbands and wives encounter this all too frequently, often resulting in divorce. “Familiarity breeds contempt,” goes the expression – and that is displayed daily among couples. One spouse fails to hold up his end of the bargain by exhibiting unfaithful behavior, poor hygiene, or a general lack of respect and attention – and the other sees it. Even behavior that was viewed as “humorous” before marriage is soon seen as contemptible – after the “knot is tied.”
In the Watchtower structure, many folks are finally seeing chinks in the Society’s armor. The Watchtower’s contradictions and flip-flops in doctrinal matters are among the major issues. And yet it’s not surprising when the leaders of the Watchtower say there are no problems with what they teach. “Wait on Jehovah,” is their usual defense to these issues. “Simply put it on the back burner,” is another suggestion frequently used by those in authority. Many of the JW old timers have learned to just accept these responses.
The problem here is that back burners have only so much room. In my opinion, an individual’s sense of propriety becomes the overwhelming control factor. The old saw, “the Society makes mistakes because they’re human”, no longer cuts it with many JWs. Why?
As we grow to be adults we inherently know right from wrong. We come to know what “honesty” is, for example, and that a “lie” is vastly different from a “mistake.” My mama told me more than a few times, “There may be honest mistakes, but there’s no such thing as an honest lie.” For many Jehovah’s Witnesses, the proven lack of honesty within the pages of Watchtower publications is, for them, “the deal-breaker.”
An adherent may become disillusioned at his new-found discoveries. His back burner uncomfortably nudges him every time some person challenges him in the ministry. What once were easy-to-follow prohibitions, such as immorality, dishonesty, and tobacco use, all become “free game” to the newly susceptible witness. Now, when tempted into acts that would have been easy to reject in the past, the witness says, “Why not? Who are they to give me orders? I’ve had enough of their self-righteous proclamations after seeing what they’ve published over the years. They’re the ones who should be held up to some universal court of law! And so what if they find out? Who cares? I’m no longer under their jurisdiction. I’m not doing this in spite of them – I’m doing this because of them! They’re the ones to blame.”
That’s faulty reasoning, of course. Coming down with some sexually transmitted disease is not a just reward for someone’s newly found freedom from their hypnotic state. But it does happen. This type of person becomes another victim of disillusionment. He drank the Kool-Aid long enough. Fortunately, in most cases it wont be a fatal drink. He may – or may not – be able to pick up the pieces. Suicides seem to happen at a rate higher than normal among this group of purportedly “happy people.” The fact is that the Watchtower truly shares some of the responsibility for an adherent’s downfall.
The bottom line? The victim becomes cut off from the group. Sure, he may have engaged in some act that was against their standards, but in most cases he wasn’t surprised by the outcome. “Are you sorry for what you did? Are you repentant?” the judicial committee will ask him.
I’ve been told by more than one elder with judicial committee experience that the reason behind most disfellowshippings is the lack of repentance.
Why then, this lack of repentance? Who has the greatest fault? I’ll let you be the judge.
Editor’s Notes: Len Miller is a frequent and outspoken contributor to several Jehovah’s Witness discussion forums. Baptized at the age of 15 in 1956, he was a Jehovah’s Witness for many years. He feels that part of the recent increase in disfellowshipping actions is due to Jehovah’s Witnesses encouraging their children to be baptized at an early age, before they fully understand the ramifications of what they are doing. He left over 30-years ago, but he continues to experience the pain of family separation and shunning due to the Watchtower’s unscriptural teachings. He says that a discovery of the facts surrounding Joseph Rutherford’s failed prophecy of 1925 led to his deeper research about Watchtower history and its false teachings. This article was adapted from his original posting that can be found here at Jehovahs-Witness.net.